"I invite the faithful to wait for good news. We shall soon witness the elimination of the Zionist stain of shame," - Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
I don't think there can be much doubt that Ahmadinejad's eschatology demands a second Holocaust for the Jews, and that is impossible to understand Hezbollah without seeing them as an instrument for this Persian Hitler to achieve his aims. That's why, despite the horrifying toll on Lebanon's infrastructure and civilians, the Israeli response does not seem to me to be disproportionate to the existential threat it faces - and would face even more starkly if Hezbollah became the emboldened tip of the Iranian spear.
But we still have levers - and one of them is the Iranian people. This piece in the NYT today struck me as fascinating. Iranians are not too fond of having their limited funds devoted to an Arab-Israeli battle. One reason for Iran's provocation, it seems to me, is that the regime is unpopular and needs to foment polarizing battles with the Jews in order to retain legitimacy and support. Ahmadinejad's gambles are as much a function of his internal weakness as his growing regional strength. That's why continued outreach to Iranian civil society - and financial and emotional support to Iran's democratic forces - is a vital component of a successful long-term strategy in the region.
(Photo: Marco di Lauro/Getty.)